Cleaning Up and Clearing Space

Six bags of things I have no use for came out of the studio closet this week. All went to the trash. It is amazing how many things you think will be used that just end up under or behind something else. Now I can actually see everything in here.

In the main studio there are still corners left to be gone through.

And things that are hard to part with right now like favorite undergraduate pieces.

But I am getting close. There are now several boxes of books to be donated to the Fiber Arts and Book Arts studios of a local craft school. Many more to be given to a used book store.

The best part of cleaning up my space this week was finding a home for my collection of pop up books. When I went to catalog them, I found the collection had grown to over ninety. And I have not added any in at least five years.

I will likely give the same alma mater some of my artist books that have been exhibited but never sold. It is nice to think of them being appreciated by budding book artists. Lots of these are tucked into corners of shelves.

But not the many years of Australia travel journals. Those I will keep for several more years. Here is just one end of the shelf full of those and the few things I brought home from my last trip over in March.

And another group of things I find it hard to part with now are the small wooden tools and foundry molds. They feel so good in the hand and need to be used somehow.

But the studio is cleaner, neater and ready for the Art Group meeting tomorrow. I will sit at my desk/work table ready to take notes.

And they will find their usual places to do the same.

Next week I will go deeper into corners and clear out some more. Ready some things for a burn pile. And get back to the Specimen Journal. Maybe redo the linen scarves that did not seem to hold much of the earth pigments due to their gauziness. And maybe work more with the photos taken of what the driveway has to say to me about the daily trek from one end to the other and back. I am beginning to see a language in the temporary marks of shadows and patches and rain.

More next week about work and workshops.

Planning Workshops and Back to Work in the Studio

This is the journal and map I am working on as a sample of how the class in Halls Gap for Grampians Texture will start. It is a six day masters class titled, “An Expedition that Begins with One Square Metre”. I use that measurement because most of my students are lucky to get that much space to work on in class. And the funny thing is that in Australia they are usually concerned that their neighbor has enough space to work on and adjust their bits and pieces accordingly. A generous, considerate lot to say the least.

In this class we will start by making this small leather field journal to write about our excursions. The map is one I learned how to cut and fold to be used for field work. It will tuck neatly into the back of the journal.  And the rest of the journey is anything the students want it to be. They can go where they want to go and accumulate “artifacts” and “evidence” along the way. Some may go to places of memory, others into a literal square metre outside the studio, and others making it up as they go… I am.

I will be teaching a white line printmaking introductory class in Hobart, Tasmania early March. It is one of my most favorite places. Tasmania is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. My mid nineties experiences with the basket makers there have made it a place to want to return to again and again. Here is a bit of white line they might relate to.

Although the image above was colored with watercolors made from Australian soils, this might just be the first time in several years that I am not teaching that technique there. It will save on packing space, that is for sure. Not to mention examined luggage.

My third class scheduled in Australia will be in Ocean Grove, Victoria. So far it is titled, “Book, Basket, Boat – Vessel for Memory”. Students just need to show up with a memory and the materials they like working with, and together we build something that houses a memory that can be saved of dispatched, wherever it needs to go. …sort of excavating followed by expediting. Here is one of mine.

It is a page from “Ties to Home”, a book about leaving one home for another.

Speaking of home, I see these things on my walk close to the house. The first is this glorious fungus along the road that appears only in this one spot every year come summer.

And this tree, an old very tall pine that has been leaning for many years and grew to adjust. But this year with so much rain, I think it is tipping ever so slightly more towards just dropping straight down to the ground. See what I mean?

I don’t know how it manages to hang on. It is a determined tree and I remember photographing it for a book of pictures of trees for an assignment in my photography class in undergraduate school. They were all so much more impressive in black and white and many of them reminded me of old men just waiting to be asked something they knew all about. The book took an award and I still have it….another thing I need to find a home for. Don’t you just look around at times and wonder, “Where did all this stuff come from?” and “Did I really need to buy or make that?!”

And here is one of my cats. Some blogs it is the picture of their cat that makes the reading worthwhile…..

She likes to watch me read in bed at night….it only lasts ten minutes and we are both gone.

And aside from all that, I have been back at the Specimen Journal. More pages as I start on the third of eight signatures between wooden covers.

There will be some writing on these last pages. Surely he had to take notes on what he was seeing and recording.

It is a wet day here in Brasstown, NC and I will stay in the studio packing things up I need to get rid of and maybe working on this Specimen Journal. I put all of the papers I made in Claudia Lee’s class away and wondered what in the world I am supposed to do with them and all the others they are keeping company with. If I take them out and make something, then that something needs to sit on a shelf. I am trying to clear off the shelves. What was I thinking?! I keep asking myself that more and more lately. Maybe I will just sit and look out this window and write some poetry. That at least ends up on one or two pages or even better in the bin.

Til next week.


A Follow Up on Claudia’s Class and More

I saw the Sanctuaries hung in the John C Campbell Folk School Craft Shop last week while taking Claudia Lee’s class. My favorite one sold before the week was finished.  And the new director of the school visited our class. He is in the back row  wearing glasses between Claudia and me. A great addition to the staff.

This is Ed modeling my boro shirt that I made from an old boro kimono and some of my own old clothes scraps stitched in. He was one of the eleven students in Claudia’s class last week on paper making for stitch. I took advantage of the indigo pot to dye a long linen shawl from Beautiful Silks in Australia.

My last post I showed some of the indigo and walnut on papers that I made in class. With the dye pot left outside my own studio at home I dropped in a shirt that I wanted to get a darker grey. It was simply iron and black tea bags….very dark. Here is the shirt.

Notice how the buttons colored the shirt when it was wadded up and tied? It will look like I dribbled soup down my front when I wear it. May have to do it again another time.

But once the class was over and the work table outside the studio here still covered with plastic, I decided to go through my earth pigments and use some on the last of the linen scarves brought home from Australia. First one was another large shawl.

Seen from the other end.

My earlier collecting of local earth pigments were placed into urine sample jars that my doctor donated to my cause. They were easy to label and make notations on how many times the soil was sifted to get to a fine pigment. I have so many jars full of these earth pigments but tried to use only the local ones from around here. I was totally hooked on gathering, sifting and storing these but ended up using just a wee bit for making watercolors. So remembering an old reference to John Marshall’s way of using pigments to color cloth, I bought my soy milk and got to do so much more with these scarves and shawls than I could ever do making samples in classes.

Plus my samples in class were quite faded due to lack of time to let the potion sit.

These linen scarves are a much looser weave than the muslin sample above but I have gone over them twice and am leaving them flat on their plastic sheets for at least two weeks before rinsing them out. Here are some more images of the other two scarves and some details.

The Carl Green Green (named for the fellow who let me gather at his motor vehicle inspection center) was very gritty when I used the jar labeled with the notation that it had been only sifted once. After going over all of these again this morning they are coated with a very thick paste of color and soy milk.

I really like these detail images. I might just do them again as paintings in watercolor.

For now the linen pieces are resting on the work table outside. The papers made in Claudia’s class are all put away. My most favorite of them is the nasty bits of thin cotton with abaca pulp caught on the surfaces that were then wax resisted and slathered with black walnut. After I ironed out the wax yesterday they feel wonderful. I will likely stitch them into something that requires handling just because they feel so good. They would never make it through the laundry if I made the shirt I was thinking about.  I think I will so some small shifu swatches to stitch in with them. Maybe even shape the results into a boat or house.

Of course there is always the question of what to do with it when I am finished…..

I will think about that later….

Til next week.

Five Days of Making and Experimenting

The past five days I was working on experimenting with materials. Sunday a friend and I tried coloring cloth and papers with eucalyptus leaves in iron baths and steaming. The steaming worked best for getting the intense color. And silk fabric worked better than cotton, linen and papers. And the intense orange that colored my large silk piece was quickly given to my friend because she loved it and I did not. Way too orange. The dull greys from the iron pot seemed more appealing. Could be I am tired of looking at botanical print images on cloth and/or paper. And that likely is because I have some that turned out so beautiful in Australia that it is hard to duplicate that here. The folios, though lovely, just sit on a shelf waiting to moved beyond what they are….nice colored leaves blurred on pages.

But Sunday night we started our workshop with paper maker/artist, Claudia Lee. I took a seat close to the door in case I might like to escape early. Dipping in pulp and trying to easily get it off the screen onto a felt to be pressed and dried….and then all that waiting to be able to do something with it seemed like an endeavor I was a bit reluctant to do. It was the “stitching” part of the class that drew me in the first place, so I was thinking sewing bits of paper together…..maybe into a shirt.

But I got the hang of it. Made some nice long narrow sheets of abaca, some with hemp and more with a combination. Then came the resisting with wax, the walnut and/or pigment coloring and of course the indigo vats. We even rusted several sheets in old pans.

Above are a sampling of some of the many sheets I made. Some from scratch in the vats and some of my printmaking papers taken in to experiment with. I was thinking of using them as backgrounds for block prints. But they are so beautiful on their own, that it is hard to see them other than as book covers and screens and lanterns. And that is what Claudia does. Hers are stunning and my colored papers though terrific looking, looked like hers. So most of them will be cut into small pieces to be stitched with shifu sections and journal entries, etc into larger pieces so they are not so much about the paper but about what they have become as part of something greater.

BUT when I made the kozo paper in the Japanese style vat that Matthew made and saw the crude results of my efforts, things changed. Would this thin barky paper cling not only to itself but to a structured form? Would it shrink like the model airplane coatings for tissue covered ribs does? Just how far and how much could I expect from the new to me material of koohiyaki be pushed?

The next two days was given over to making this boat, the fish with shifu lines attached, the one oar, bundle with a small golden bell enclosed, a scroll, navigational tool and the batiked and colored rock that sits inside as another metaphor for the inevitable.

I loved making this. The long rectangular rock just in front of my car in the parking lot made the perfect finish for this piece. It lifts the bundle up and makes it easy to pick up and give it a shake to hear the bell as in memory jogging…”oh, that rings a bell.” Arranging the entire piece in a curved orientation is a reminder that things will continue to go round and round. A single oar just about guarantees that to happen. It also pulls at other things like the fish who join in the vortex of what is happening. Yes, I really did love making this while the others went on making and coloring paper.

I stayed with my idea of pulp on thin cotton and ended up with some pieces that can be used sculpturally in my studio. They were so ugly and cloggy looking while drying but became just what I would have wanted after the wax and walnut.

And here are some more of the papers and cloth.

And of course one of the best things about being in a class is the people around you. They were wonderful, supportive and interesting. Claudia Lee is the most amazing giving, sharing an certainly knowledgeable instructors I know. Her paper making skills are extraordinary and if you ever get a chance to take one of her classes, do it. Register as soon as possible.

More next week on whatever happens after cleaning up the mess we made here and in the studio.